Aiken Standard, October 24, 2011

By Amy Banton, Staff Writer

A local man could say he was graced by the bluebird of happiness after receiving an award for his contribution in preserving the feathered kind.

Jim Burke was awarded the North American Bluebird Society’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Bluebird Conservation in September during a convention in Jackson, Tenn. Burke is the president of the South Carolina Bluebird Society, which was started right here in Aiken a year ago.
“I was absolutely shocked, totally surprised and completely humbled by this award,” Burke said. “For me, it’s just been so rewarding to work with people from all over Aiken County who are excited about doing this.”

Burke became interested in bluebirds after attending a meeting held by Birds & Butterflies store owner Ron Brenneman shortly after moving to Aiken in 2007. He and his wife Sharon were intrigued, learning how to set up a house for bluebirds in their yard and quickly attracting a few.

Burke learned more of their behaviors and said this species has a fascinating family structure from how the male and female work together to build a nest to how the parents teach their young how to essentially be a bluebird.

“They are just a lot of fun, and we need more family groups in the world to function like they do,” Burke said. “We’d have less problems.”

The idea for the group, which was originally the Central Savannah River Blue Bird Society and recently gained nonprofit status, was prompted after Burke and current co-chairs of the trail monitors committee, Roger Brock and Brenneman, discussed the possibility of starting a local bluebird society. The first meeting held was on Oct. 19, 2010, and around 25 people showed up.

Since then, the group has grown to 58 members and has also garnered interest from individuals around the state.

“Jim is very deserving of the award,” Brenneman said. “He’s been very instrumental in getting the organization together.”

A total of 22 nest box trails and 22 “backyard” trails for 262 nest boxes have been installed in the Aiken area since the group’s inception, according to Burke. Those trails fledged 832 birds including 679 Eastern bluebirds, 96 Carolina chickadees, 20 Carolina wrens, 19 tufted titmice and 18 brown-headed nuthatches. The group has also offered educational presentations at various local happenings.

“It (this award) really belongs to our whole group,” Burke said. “Everybody did their part to get the group up and going fast and to do good things.”

Brock submitted Burke’s name for the award. He said Burke was quite deserving of the honor, and Brock’s recommendation letter to the North American Bluebird Society reflects his sentiment.

“For his vision for a NABS affiliate in Aiken, SC, his passion and interest in the welfare of bluebirds, his tireless efforts in making CSRBS a tremendous success including inspirational talks and his personal involvement in almost every activity and event,” Brock wrote. “Conservation is about protecting plants, animals, and their habitats. Jim is making a difference in our part of South Carolina and nearby Georgia. One that bluebirds and other second cavity nesters appreciate.”Anne Sturm, awards chair of the North American Bluebird Society, said she was quite impressed with the work Burke has done with the group as he seemed to do it all – from the organizational and educational standpoint to working in the field, as well.

“He is just dynamite,” Sturm said. “Mr. Burke – what makes him unusual is that he covers all the bases.”

The South Carolina Bluebird Society is planning to host the North American Bluebird Society’s 36th Annual Convention in October 2013 in Aiken. This event could attract between 150 to 200 people from across the United States and Canada to the area.

For more information about the South Carolina Bluebird Society, call Burke at 644-0235 or email him at



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